Summer is here and more families and their pets will spend extended hours outdoors enjoying the sun. Pet owners should take note: A recent VPI Pet Insurance analysis of 2009 policyholder claims for dogs and cats shows an increase in ailments during the summer.
Pets Should Play with Caution
“Pets are treated more frequently in the summer due to their increased exposure to the outdoors,” says Dr. Carol McConnell, vice president of Underwriting and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI.
Pet owners should be cautious about overdoing summer activities with their pets, advises McConnell. For instance, high temperatures can lead to sunburn and heat stroke. Access to swimming pools can lead to dog ear infections or—worse case scenario—a pet accidentally falling into a pool and drowning.
VPI’s statistics underscore the importance of summer-month precautions. Dogs and cats were treated more commonly for hyperthermia (heat stroke) in July and increasingly for insect bites and stings in August.
Summer activities can be enjoyable for your entire family; consider these tips to prevent pet maladies:
Foxtails—a type of grass with sharp, bristlelike fibers commonly found on paths and grassy hillsides—are a serious hazard. The sharp points extend forward, embedding the foxtail in the pet’s paw, ears, eyes or nose, inevitably causing an infection and potential death if digested.
Stings and Bites
Insects and spiders of all shapes and sizes come out of their hiding places during the summer. Mosquitoes congregate near water. Rid your yard of even the shallowest pools of water (including the toddler’s pool) so mosquitoes don’t breed. Keep your pet away from bees, wasps and woodpiles that may harbor spiders.
To prevent heat stroke, keep your pet indoors as much as possible during the warmest hours of the day (usually 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Never leave your pet in the car unattended, even with the windows open, and always have an ample supply of drinking water.
Pets Get Burns, Too
Hot sidewalks can be very painful for pets and may burn the pads of their paws. In addition, sunburn is common on body areas not protected by fur or dark skin such as the nose, tips of the ears and underbelly, and may lead to skin cancer. Consult your veterinarian regarding sunscreen; a light application on exposed skin may help prevent both sunburn and skin cancer, especially in pets with light fur and pale pigmentation.
Although relatively rare, cases of near drownings do increase during summer. If your pet falls into a pool, inhales water and appears to be in danger, keep your pet warm and dry thoroughly. Contact your veterinarian immediately.
Ear infections are frequently caused by trapped water in a dog’s ear after swimming or bathing. If your pet is prone to water activities, speak to your veterinarian regarding specific ear cleaning products that will help dry the ear canal to prevent recurring ear infections.
Have a safe and fun summer experience with your pet by familiarizing yourself with these conditions.